March 10, 2014

Lessons from a Past Self: Re-reading Old Journals.

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Do you ever re-read old journals or blog posts and find that they relate to your present circumstances more than ever? Or serve as a growth gauge? Here is one of mine from almost a year ago. As I reread it, I feel a million miles away from the self recorded on the page, and yet the lesson served is just as relevant for me today as it was back then…

13 Mar 2013

I sit down to write, but have no idea what I am going to say or where this post is going to go next. So, in many ways this will be like a stream of thought post. Hopefully it will remain readable and with few comma splices. I said few.

I always have high hopes for my writing. When I was a kid I used to believe that I would be a writer. That was on even days. On odd days I tended to oscillate between Prime Minister, Lawyer, Queen of the World, and Famous. I had no idea what I would be Famous for, but I was certain that I would prove perfect for the role.

There was a group talking about Anne Hathaway at work today. About half of them were Hatha-haters, and the others were all “Anne shall Hath her Way with me.” It made me wonder about what it’s like to be Famous and how hard it must be if you are Famous and have a constant need for validation and approval. Yuck. Doesn’t feel like a nice combination.

As I walked home from work, reflecting on the day, my thoughts swirled around questions of my need for approval and validation from others. I must say that I have become less caught up in the two but they still creep along with me in the shadows only to show their faces when I least expect (or want) to see them.

I’m going to be completely honest with you here—I’ve been mega Hatha-hating on myself lately. I just seem to have these negative thoughts repeating themselves over and over in my head gaining momentum with each repetition. And as I repeat the thoughts, no matter how outrageous they are truly, they start to gain validity as I begin to believe them. And I begin to believe them even more as I start to find ways to justify them.

For example, let’s say that I think I am a giant purple elephant.

At first this thought starts out quietly, repeating itself in my mind maybe 15 times every hour. But then something shifts. The thought becomes a habit, and so I start repeating it even more—no lie. This is actually what happens with me. I can observe it happening! No matter how silly or unhelpful the thought is, the ability for it to take root in my mind is uncanny.

So here I am, repeating to myself “I am a giant purple elephant.” Then something else starts to happen- I seek out information in my environment to validate my perspective. “Oh—did you see that man move around me. OMG. It’s because I am a giant purple elephant, isn’t it? I knew it.”

It’s lazy thinking. It’s like mental shorthand except it’s the wrong kind because I personally don’t love believing I resemble a purple elephant. But, if I’m not careful with my thoughts, this kind of belief can stick for years. How many of us have beliefs, like the above, that took root long ago? I know the answer—too many. There are too many of us.

So back to that tonight: As I am walking home thinking this outrageous, unhelpful thought and something happens. I literally stop right in my tracks, and I stop in my thoughts. I ask myself, “Why am I thinking like this, when I could choose any other thought in the world right now? Why am I beating myself up like this when I could spend my time being my friend? Why? How is this helping me?”

And I had no answer. I had no idea. But something about stopping right in the middle and sincerely questioning myself made me realize that if I were to die in the next minute I would certainly choose to spend my precious time on other thoughts. And so it became my practice for the rest of my walk home.

Pretty impressive for a giant, purple elephant.




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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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